These girls are my mother, Audrey Meinzen, and her sisters.
My mother, Audrey, was born in June, 1915.
Her sister, Geraldine, was born in November, 1918.
The blonde sister was born in July, 1921.
There are 3 1/2 years between Audrey and Geraldine and 6 years between Audrey and her blonde sister.
Somehow, as I look at these sisters, the ages don't fit the sizes. How old were they in this photo? Either my mom was mature for her age or her sisters were young for their ages. If the blonde sister was 6 then my mother was 12. Don't you think she looks older than 12? And don't you think the blonde sister looks younger than 6? Do you have a guess at their ages or the year this might have been taken?
My mom's mother, Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen, grew up in a family where studio portraits were taken on a regular basis, perhaps once every year or two. I think she carried on the tradition as much as she was able with her own children. One of the early photographs of my mother, taken when she was about 6 months old, is framed in a large oval, perhaps 16" x 24". I occasionally wonder how my grandmother managed to afford what seems to me such an extravagance. And I wonder where she hung it and how long it was there.
I try to imagine my grandmother as a young mother, getting 3 girls ready to have their portraits taken. Their shoes are mirror-shiney and their dresses are ironed and creaseless. It must have been a big event to go be photographed. They probably travelled by car from Mineral Ridge to the studio of "Alfonsi, Photographist" in Niles, Ohio. My grandfather would have driven because my grandmother never had a driver's license. Were the girls excited and giggly in the back seat or quiet and pensive? Did their mother caution them to be very, very careful to keep their dresses smooth and unwrinkled?
When the above portrait was taken the girls also sat for individual photographs. When developed they measured a long and thin 3 7/8" x 9 5/8". I had a copy of my mother's but only recently learned that all the girls were photographed separately. My cousin loaned me some family photos and I found one of her mother, Geraldine, in the same size as the one of my mother. I suspect that the blonde sister or her family still has her photograph. At right are the two portraits, cropped because the lower third of the photographs were faded out by the photographer. I almost like them better than the group photo.
Confession time: The top photograph and the one of my mother are digital photographs of color photocopies. Years ago my mother loaned me the top photograph and the individual one of her. She wanted them back and I didn't have access to a scanner (if they were even common then) so I made color photocopies. They didn't scan very well so I decided to make digital photographs. They're not great but they're not too bad. The image of Geraldine was scanned from the original photograph.
If you'd like to look at other old photographs and read about them, I invite you to go to Sepia Saturday.